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For a successful business, you need a viable business idea, the skills to make it work and the funding. Discover whether your idea has what it takes.

Forming your business correctly is essential to ensure you are protected and you comply with the rules. Learn how to set up your business.

It is likely you will need funding to start your business unless you have your own money. Discover some of the main sources of start up funding.

Businesses and individuals must account for and pay various taxes. Understand your tax obligations and how to file, account and pay any taxes you owe.

Businesses are required to comply with a wide range of business laws. We introduce the main rules and regulations you must comply with.

Learn why business planning is an essential exercise if your business is to start and grow successfully, attract funding or target new markets.

Marketing matters. It drives sales and helps promote your brand and products. Discover how to market your business and reach your target customers.

Some businesses need a high street location whilst others can be run from home. Understand the key factors from cost to location, size to security.

Your employees can your biggest asset. They can also be your biggest challenge. We explain how to recruitment and manage staff successfully.

It is likely your business could not function without some form of IT. Learn how to specify, buy, maintain and secure your business IT.

Few businesses manage the leap from start up to high-growth business. Learn what it takes to scale up and take your business to the next level.

Ten ways to increase your margins

Successful firms are constantly searching for ways to trim their costs and increase their revenue, in good times and bad. Vicki Arnstein considers the steps you can take to make your business leaner and more profitable

  1. Carry out an audit. Review your outgoings and incoming revenue. This will highlight any costs that seem particularly high and any parts of the business where your revenue has inexplicably dropped.
  2. Streamline your running costs. Could you cut your utility bills by using energy more efficiently or by changing supplier, for example? Review your travel costs and consider how much of your work could be done online and at home.
  3. Assess your staff bill. If your employees are not busy all of the time, look for ways to reduce staff costs. Ask them if they might be open to voluntary measures, such as reduced hours or flexible working. Take legal advice if considering changing employees' terms and conditions.
  4. Improve your purchasing. Assess the cost of any materials needed to supply your goods or services. Could you reduce this without making your products less desirable, by switching to slightly lower specification materials? You could also consider putting work out to tender to find more cost-effective suppliers. Review your utility providers - it's now much easier to compare tariffs and switch supplier.
  5. Reduce your stock. Consider whether you can cut back the level of stock you hold. Can you get hold of or manufacture items quickly enough to satisfy customer orders without having goods sitting in storage for long periods? Aim to keep just enough stock to service your customers' needs.
  6. Look for growth opportunities. If competitors are falling by the wayside, look for ways to take advantage and expand into different parts of the market. Now might also be the time to seriously consider mergers with competitors to strengthen your position.
  7. Protect your marketing spend. Focus your marketing efforts on your most profitable customers and calculate how much revenue you need to make for your advertising promotional spend to be worthwhile.
  8. Boost staff productivity. Home and work worries can make employees less productive support your staff with training and try to increase morale by offering simple rewards and incentives.
  9. Protect against currency fluctuations. If you do any business overseas, protect your company from adverse exchange rate fluctuations by trading in pounds where possible, setting up a foreign exchange bank account or drawing up a forward contract with your bank (buying an amount of currency at an agreed exchange rate on a fixed date).
  10. Keep on assessing. Review your spending regularly and keep seeking ways to improve income. Make sure you regularly take stock of where costs can be trimmed and your revenue boosted.

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